What does it mean to solicit a prostitute?
Prostitution and soliciting a prostitute is currently illegal in the state of California. However, it sometimes not clear what exactly constitutes solicitation of a prostitute. By definition, the word solicitation refers to the persuasion of someone to do something. The law itself states that it is illegal to ask for sex in return for money or compensation. It is also illegal to offer sex in exchange for any kind of compensation. To prove someone is guilty of soliciting a prostitute, there must be evidence of that intent.
Types of Solicitation
Evidence of intent when it comes to solicitation can come in any number of forms. An offender may have withdrawn cash from an ATM, for instance. Driving to a location where there is a prostitute, such as a hotel, can be evidence of intent, as can inviting a prostitute to get in your car. It’s important to remember that even if someone doesn’t end up completing the act, they can still be charged with solicitation. The intent is the most important factor when deciding whether charges should be laid. Sometimes this occurs when someone is caught by a police officer, or the prostitute is an undercover officer.
A common example is when an undercover officer is solicited. The officer may be operating as part of a sting operation and is dressed as a street walking prostitute. During this time, someone comes up and begins to talk to the officer. At some point, this person offers money to the undercover officer and drives her to his hotel room. If the officer confirms that there is, in fact, money to be exchanged (as opposed to a lie), then the man will most likely be arrested for solicitation. His actions and his words both show that he had an intent to have sex with the undercover officer, and was going to give her money to do so.
How Police Use Undercover Operations to Make Arrests
Undercover operations are the primary way for police to make solicitation arrests. This is the easiest way for them to gather evidence of intent, since they often communicate directly with the offender. They have three main methods to catch offenders. These include undercover operations like the example above, placing ads online to attract “clients,” and even going undercover as customers to catch prostitutes and pimps.
Solicitation is a misdemeanor charge, but can still come with some serious penalties. A first offense could come with a county jail term of up to six months. Lesser penalties include probation, community service, or a fine up to $1000. On top of that, an offender may be mandated to submit to testing for sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS.
Some cities in California also have diversion programs for first-time offenders. Instead of criminal charges, an offender submits to completing the program. Penalties for solicitation will only get more severe the more times an offender is convicted.
How You Can Mount a Defense Against Charges of Soliciting a Prostitute
As with any charge, prosecutors must show that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That means that the evidence must meet every requirement to qualify for a conviction of soliciting a prostitute. Prosecutors can have a difficult time with this, since it can be hard to prove the intent of a defendant. If they fail to do this, then the jury or the judge will determine that they haven’t made their case beyond a reasonable doubt and return an acquittal, or lesser charges. In many cases, the defendant has been able to prove that they did solicit a prostitute for sex, but there is no evidence they offered any money or goods. They may also claim that while they did offer money, they did not actually hand it over, thereby showing that they had no intent to go through with solicitation for money. It is a fine line, but in both of these cases, the defendant could be deemed not guilty.
Another example is a mistake of fact defense. This could arise if the defense can show there was no intent at all to trade goods for sex. For example, someone responds to an ad online for a “date” or “companionship.” The defendant may have truly only wanted someone to accompany them to an event, or just for companionship, and did not intend to engage in sexual acts.
Entrapment is always a concern when police officers are using undercover tactics to make solicitation arrests. In these cases, the police have somehow tricked or coerced someone into committing a crime. These can take the form of lying, threats, or harassment. Many normally law-abiding citizens have fallen prey to unfair police actions, but entrapment may be an effective defense in these cases.
If you are charged with solicitation, then it’s vital to contact an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about prostitution laws so that they can provide an effective defense for you.